Why Shield AI: Meaningful Work with Significant Application

 

Post written by Tim Jarratt, Finance Manager

Last summer, between my first and second year of business school, I did a 10-week internship at Shield AI. The internship was challenging. I worked 12 to 16 hours every day (sometimes on weekends) and earned less than my MBA peers who spent their summer in large corporate environments. I had significant responsibility, however, and was expected to contribute to the growing company every day. In significant ways. I returned to business school with an offer to join Shield AI full-time, and felt full of excitement about that offer  for several reasons:

The four things that I look for in a job are:

  1. The work is meaningful with real and significant application.

  2. The work is challenging in a way that forces me to learn and grow.

  3. The work is done by talented individuals who form an even better team.

  4. The work affords balance to prioritize family, health and fitness.

The work is meaningful with real and significant application.

Hand-launching Nova

Right from the start, Shield AI’s mission of protecting lives using artificially intelligent systems appealed to me on a very personal level and I found the potential impact of their solution to be profound. The Shield AI mission is rooted in one of the founder’s experiences in combat operations in Afghanistan. He and I shared many of the same challenges during our 2013 deployment to Afghanistan, and for me the mission of the company could not be more relevant. The idea of using artificially intelligent systems to protect lives is immensely engaging. I came away from my very first conversation with Brandon with scores of questions about the implication of AI both on tactical operations and on national security. Additionally, Shield AI is a technology company working to solve difficult technical problems in pursuit of a noble purpose. The difficulty of the task, when coupled with the fact that people will be using our systems in the highest-stakes situations imaginable, fosters a tight-knit community that encourages teammates to reach a little higher in pursuit of our mission.


The work is challenging in a way that forces me to learn and grow.

Tim Jarratt

Another important aspect of being around awesome people is that it facilitates learning and growth—iron sharpens iron.  There are truly talented people with deep expertise moving as fast as they can and earning a spot on the team requires one’s best effort. Because of the extensive interest in each other’s disciplines, one of the regular features at Shield AI is technical presentations explaining a particular aspect of a team’s work to the rest of the company. This means that in addition to learning about scaling a rapidly growing startup, I have also been able to dive into a variety of disciplines outside of my education and background. Topics like hardware design, UI design, software development, as well as some cutting-edge topics in AI such as collective intelligence, have become part of my everyday conversation. I am able to provide insights to our  design teams on customers’ specific needs based on my military experience.


The work is done by talented individuals who form an even better team.

High-performing individuals make high-performing teams, and high-performing teams consistently achieve success in scenarios where there would otherwise be a high risk of failure. Solving difficult problem sets starts with bringing together great people. A quick look at Shield AI’s team reveals some impressive resumes, but there’s more to the story. Among the many characteristics of the individuals at Shield AI, one of the aspects that people might not pick up from the website is how much grit the team possesses. Here’s just one example: recently our Chief Technology Officer was scheduled to attend a meeting with an important potential customer hundreds of miles away. Unfortunately, the airline cancelled his flight the night before, and, realizing the next available flight would cause him to be 30 minutes late to the meeting, he drove through the night to make it on time. Rather than let the team down, he gave up a night’s sleep to make things happen. These are the type of people with whom I want to be in the trenches.


The work affords balance to prioritize important things including family,  fitness, and health.

Shield AI Employees at the Gym

There’s a gym on the roof! For me, physical health, mental health, and success at work are inextricably linked—overemphasizing one or neglecting any one of them decreases my overall effectiveness. Shield AI has mature leaders who are experienced enough to understand that an unbalanced life is unsustainable. One of the really smart tactical decisions the Co-Founders made was to co-locate Shield AI in an office building that also has a fantastic gym (with a lap pool!) on the roof and then encourage employees to exercise during work hours. This means people can stay on top of their fitness—which affects sleep quality, energy, mood, and overall mental health—and completely dedicate time outside of work to friends, family, and other important priorities. Working at a mission-driven startup almost certainly involves long days, but I know that at Shield AI I don’t have to sacrifice my health, sleep, or sanity—quite the opposite.

I accepted my offer last fall and enthusiastically joined Shield AI as the Finance Manager this summer. I’m thrilled to be here and excited for all that is to come. Woo-hoo!


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